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“Our Stay at Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa”

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Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa
Ranked #3 of 16 Hotels in St. John's
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed April 4, 2013

My husband and I have been to several Sandals Resorts, including St. Lucia Grande, Negril, Royal Caribbean, Royal Bahamian and Whitehouse. This was our first trip to Antigua and the best experience we've had. Through our travel agent, Mike McHugh of Dreammakers Vacations, we booked non-stop flights out of JFK, and a six night stay at the resort. Mike made our dinner reservations ahead of time, and the concierge, Donovan Dobson, had our reservations ready when we arrived.
Our experience at the airport was unlike any Sandals welcome we've had. There was no welcoming person waiting to greet us with a beverage and smooth check-in. We had a long wait for a van to transport us to the resort and the two gentlemen signing us in seemed stressed and frazzled. At this point we didn't know what to expect, but everything changed once we arrived at the resort.
Upon arrival, we were greeted with the typical washcloth and escorted to a waiting lounge where we filled out the necessary paperwork. We then met Donovan Dobson, who is the director of guest services. He informed us we had been upgraded to a rondoval with our own private pool. We travel with another couple who were upgraded as well. The suite was beautiful and our pool was a luxury we had never had at any of the other resorts. Our rondoval was located in the Caribbean section which is a tropical paradise, which exactly what we wanted. We were only a few yards from the beach, which is pristine and immaculately kept. The big pool was not far and gorgeous. The other part of the resort is the Mediterranean which looked to us like a contemporary plush hotel. We wanted to stay in the Caribbean Grove because we were closer to the beach and wanted the tropical atmosphere.
If I had a complaint at all, it would be that the food was not great at some of the restaurants. We had reservations for 2 nights at the OK Corral which features Tex Mex cuisine. We ordered the filet mignon, which was definitely not the filet we're used to, but very thin and tough. We cancelled our 2nd reservation. We had burgers at Barefoot at the Sea which were way too well-done and the pizza at Bella Napoli was undercooked. The breakfast buffet at Bayside was excellent, though at times, the food was not replenished and you had to wait around. Lunch at the Bayside was buffet style, and good, if you want a heavy lunch, which we didn't every day, so we utilized the Courtyard Bistro which had great burgers & sandwiches. Our dinners at Kimonos, Marios and Bayside were delicious. We didn't go to the Sushi Bar or Eleanors so I can't comment on those restaurants. Cafe de Paris had outstanding sweets and coffee. If we couldn't find my husband, we usually found him there.
The grounds are immaculately kept and inviting. Plenty of lounges by the pools, outside sitting, where you can just congregate and relax and an overall friendly atmosphere.
I can't say enough about Donovan Dobson, director of Guest Services. Out of all of the Sandals we have visited, he is by far the best at what he does!! From the moment we met him upon arrival, to the day we left, he made sure that all of our needs were met in a friendly way. He saw us daily to make sure that everything was well and that we were enjoying ourselves to the fullest. We had a slight problem with the drain in our sink. Within 10 minutes of informing Donovan, a maintenance man was at our door and repaired the sink. He also made sure that the concierge replenished our bar with the beverages we requested on a daily and timely manner. We were sad to leave on our final morning and he made sure that both he, and the general manager of the resort, Mr. Christ were there to say good-bye and ensure that our transport to the airport was handled in an expedient way.
Housekeeping was excellent as well. Our rooms were immaculate and cleaned every morning by the time we got back from breakfast. Kudos go to Andrea our housekeeper, for keeping the rooms so nice. Our private plunge pool was also maintained on a daily basis and was spotless.
Overall this was our best Sandal's experience. Can't wait to go back!! Looking forward to seeing you again Donovan!!

Room Tip: If you like the tropical ambiance stay in the Caribbean Grove. If you're looking more for a 5 s...
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  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank mcallisterjm
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed April 3, 2013

My husband and I were married at the Sandals Grande Antigua 2 weeks ago to the day, and our group had the absolute best time in the world at this resort. From the champagne welcoming to the upgrade room we received. THe wedding team was fabulous and made our day one to never forget. The photos were amazing, and everyone was patient and ready to listen to what we wanted and were open arms to all of our choices. The resort staff was friendly, and made you feel like kings and queens. The entertainment was a blast, and food was incredible. We made lifetime friends that we will keep in touch with and highly recommend this resort to anyone who is looking for a relaxing vacation at a resort where the staff really cares about your needs.

  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank Erin R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 3, 2013

Just arriving home from our honeymoon this past week, stayed at sandals Antigua resort. First off the resort itself is very nice, tropical and the staff is very friendly.
Upon being guided to our "upgraded" room my husband and I were both extremely disappointed and couldn't imagine what we were being upgraded from??! This resort is by no means cheap and I defiantly expected more from the rooms. Luckily we got another room the next and happily accepted it. Do not expect amazing views from any room unless you stay directly on the beach and or the top floor of the Mediterranean Village.
This is definitely a pool lovers paradise (we are beach people) and where plenty of couples go to meet new friends (this was my honeymoon, no new friends thanks!). The beach was pretty once you got around the men offering you hats, necklaces and if you wanted to "party".
Restaurants and pubs were actually pretty good, Carib the beer is great and the pool bar has super friendly staff. Highly recommend the Wadadli tour around the island!!! This was amazing and I would have done it twice if I didn't have to leave! The tour guides are hilarious and super fun.
Relaxing vacation, happy we tried it, but will not be returning.

  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Nil808
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 3, 2013

We have just returned from a 2 week stay at Sandals Grande Antigua which is a beautiful and well maintained resort in a perfect location. The beach is fine white sand which slopes gently into the Caribbean Sea with any small amounts of seaweed cleared by the hotel on a daily basis.

Despite the comments of other travellers I found the traders on the beach the most polite and unassuming I have ever come across. Yes they brought their wares to you unsolicited, but a simple no thank you had them wishing you well and moving on to the next sunbed. They were never pushy and several of the guys who sold the catamaran trips were very funny to listen to.

Our first floor (second if you are American) room in the Frangipani block had a wonderful view of the sea and the lovely sunsets. The room itself was a good size with a huge 4 poster bed, lounge area and separate bathroom, all of which were well maintained by housekeeping. Although the room was always serviced late in the afternoon not in the morning, this didn’t bother us as we were never there during the day. This was compensated for by the superb turn down service in the evening which was effectively another mini service of the room which amongst other things replaced or tidied the towels we had used a couple of hours earlier.

The food in all 11 restaurants was excellent, we tried all of them at least once and in terms of the food quality it would be hard to pick a favourite. But if we had to it would be the sushi bar. If you choose a quiet night, as we did with only 3 other couples in the restaurant you effectively have your own chef for the evening. With 2 chefs preparing wonderfully fresh sushi right in front of you it is both entertaining and delicious and they keep the sushi coming so long as you keep ordering and we certainly did, trying almost everything on the menu.

So if that were all there is to a great holiday then I would be giving 5 stars to Sandals and threatening to return year after year to this luxury included resort. However there were two aspects to our Sandals experience which means that this will be our first and last visit to Sandals.

The first issue is that this is not a quiet resort by any stretch of the imagination. The huge main pool is beautiful when empty, either early in the morning or late at night but during the day it is basically a huge cocktail party. Forget trying to swim in it as it is littered with people with beers and cocktails in their hands leaning on the floating mats. The water is barely 4 feet deep anyway and would be difficult to swim in even without the obstacles. Add to this the incessant boom of the music and some of the antics of the guests and you basically have a Club 18-30 holiday for “grown-ups”.

So this isn’t my idea of a “sophisticated resort” as described on Sandals website. I am sure Sandals would argue that there are other pools tucked away that were quiet but even these were contaminated by guests who plug speakers instead of headphones into their Ipad in order to share their music or the maintenance staff and security guards who had transistor radios screeching out reggae album tracks for the benefit of those of us who are out of range of the main pool. Finally on the subject of noise are the catamarans that pull up onto the beach 3 or 4 times a day, if I ever hear Bob Marley - Don’t Worry, again ........................!

The other aspect of huge annoyance is the service or lack of it. There seems to be confusion here between being friendly and giving good service. The majority of the staff were happy, smiling and said hello but I am afraid that doesn’t cut much ice when you have been waiting 1 hour 40 minutes for a steak. Nor does it help when you have asked 4 times for your transfer back to the airport to be brought forward by 30 minutes and it still arrives at the same time.

The reason I had to bring forward my departure time was to allow extra time to sort out a Sandals created mess with my airline. I had asked the concierge to print my boarding pass for my return flight and he checks the box that says I am carrying firearms, explosives, contraband etc. thus preventing me from checking in early and choosing my seats for a Trans-Atlantic flight which could now only be done at the airport. I therefore had to allow extra time to convince the airline that I had no links to any terrorist organisation. A predicament that a colleague of the concierge found highly amusing.

The whole attitude of the staff seemed to be that they will give good service only if and when they choose to, whether it is the waitresses who seem more interested in joining in the dancing in the evenings rather than getting round the tables, or the maitre d’ at Eleanors who couldn’t be bothered to clear an outside table for us stating it would take 15 minutes to clear.

I get the impression that those with a butler (no we didn’t go for this ridiculous appendage) got the type of service that we are used to in the western world but why should we pay extra for what should be included.

So no Sandals, whatever demographic you are aiming for it is not for us and I think words like sophistication, luxury and service need to be removed from your advertisements and a slight amendment to your tag line such that it reads:-

Luxury Included, Service is extra!

Room Tip: Mediterranean side newer and more glitzy but be prepared for the noise both day and night. Caribbean...
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  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
4  Thank JohntheBatman
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 3, 2013

My husband and I spent 5 days at this resort's Mediterranean Village in early March. We have been to three other Sandals resorts, and this one came up a bit short in our experience - predominantly due to the quality of service. The "welcome desk" at the airport (in case you are used to other Sandals welcome lounge's with cold drinks and comfy furnishings) is little more than a taxi stand outside the airport. Check-in was fine, but it was here that we noticed first that the attitude of many of the staff is markedly different from that of, for example, the Jamaica resorts. There was a distinct lack of attentiveness in many cases - - - sitting for over 15 minutes at breakfast without acknowledgment or coffee (yikes!); a dinner order that took over an hour to arrive. At times, we felt like we were bothering people by asking questions or requesting things like silverware and water. Oftentimes, items on the buffet were not replenished during peakt service hours, and empty platters were frequently just left on the service island. I don't want to give the impression that we expect to be coddled on vacation, but we have grown accustomed to the warmth and exemplary training of Sandals/Beaches staff at other resorts.

We had no trouble finding chairs on the beach, which is beautiful and provides ample room for walking in either direction. Seaside peddlers were plentiful, but very polite. Poolside seating was difficult to find. The room was nice and very clean. Restaurant food was OK. Pay special attention to the evenings on which each restaurant is closed if you would like to sample all of them during your stay, and be sure to make reservations at your earliest opportunity.

High points: the nightly entertainment was excellent, and a very personable, sophisticated and knowledgable staff member - Narissa Martin - who went out of her way a number of times to be of assistance. She was the one person who exemplified what we have come to expect of the Sandals model.

Low points: the indifference and inattentiveness of several of the staff made us feel uncomfortable/unwelcome at times.

  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank MKay3407
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 3, 2013

I've been to Bahamas, Barbados Aruba and St Lucia, I must say this resort has surpassed all other hotels I've stayed at. The food was excellent, breakfast, lunch dinner or snacks, buffet or a la carte everything was delicious. The staff was sweet, funny, and always in a good mood. The beach was perfect, I couldn't ask for anything more! My favourite thing was ice cream at Cafe Paris and pizza at the pizzeria. It was worth the price and if you can afford it you will not regret staying at this adults only resort!

  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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2  Thank tripswitht
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 3, 2013

So it's taken me a while to write this review, because I wasn't sure if I was even going to do it. I had the absolute worst experience at Sandals Grande Antigua during our honeymoon from March 11-17th.
When we first arrived (around 4pm) we were told our room wasn't ready, and to have some lunch and come back. I knew that checkout was at 11am, so I wasn't quite sure why our room wasn't available when we got there hours after that. For a large property with huge guest turnover, you would think rooms would be ready upon guests arrival late in the day. Whatever. We went to lunch at Bella Napoli Pizzaria. It was actually very good. The pizzas are small, personal sized, and do take quite a while to come out, but were quite tasty.
After lunch we went back to the front desk and were told our room was ready. I could have sworn we paid for a butler suite, but was told we had a concierge suite. We were walked to our room on the 3rd floor by our first concierge, who's name I do not recall, and when we got to the room the air conditioning wasn't working. He stayed in the room with us for a while and I commented how our "ocean view suite" was neither a suite in my mind, or really ocean view. The concierge then proceeded to say to us "I hope you're not beach people, because the beach is mostly washed away right now." Turns out we ARE beach people, and for the first 4 days of our trip, there was literally 3 feet of open beach (littered with vendors, mind you), as it was extremely high tide. Anyway, the concierge noted that the air conditioning really wasn't working and that we needed a new room. We were taken to back to the front desk, and handed over to Concierge Leon, who took us to our new room on the 5th floor.
Leon was AMAZING. He did absolutely everything in his power to try and make our stay better. When he walked us into our room and told us we weren't booked for a butler suite, but a concierge suite, I had a slight meltdown. Then I said forget it, I just want to order room service and go to bed. He said there was no room service unless you had the butler suite! What kind of hotel doesn't have room service??? I would have even paid extra at that point to have it, but it wasn't allowed.
The rest of the trip stayed on the same pace. I'm not going to go into lengthy detail, but all of the restaurants took forever for you food and drink (even soda) to come out, and when they did the portions were small and embarassing. Most of the staff was not friendly, and seemed almost annoyed that they had to be working. I will say that the most friendly staff we enountered (outside of Leon) were the girls working at Cafe de Paris. They were always so friendly and had a smile on their faces and so happy to help you. Everywhere else? Not so much. Restaurants close after 9:30pm and the only food you can have is from the Cricketers Pub (gross overcooked chicken fingers that come 3 to a plate. And when they say fingers, they mean it - they were so small they were literally the size of fingers). I'm sorry but when you're on vacation, and you're out in the sun all day (we sometimes didn't even get up to our room until after 6pm!) you take a shower and a nap and sometimes aren't even ready to go eat until 9-9:30! And you can't, because they're closing!
Sandals is NOT cheap, and for the money we spent I don't feel we got anything in return. The way this Sandals operates is just completely backwards. Honeymoons and vacations should be relaxed and fun. I was neither relaxed, nor having fun. Speaking of the food and drink, the food (I will say the food was VERY good), came out in such small portions, it was ridiculous. I had a steak with a side of veggies and there was literally 2 broccoli florets and a SLICE of carrot. Mario's food was good as well, but the stay was super unfriendly, and the food took ages to come out. We ordered our food and drinks at the same time, and when our chicken parm came out 45 mins later, we still had not gotten drinks. I honestly had gotten so fed up, I started getting up and helping myself, much to the staff's dismay.
Everything you've read in other reviews about having to get up before 6 am to get a good spot at the pool? True. And watch out, that sun there is HOT and you need to be in the shade after a while. If you don't get up and reserve a spot, you're stuck in the sun all day. Nobody comes around at the pool to take a drink order, you have to go to the swim up bar and be ignored. One bartender to stay awar from is Marcus. Young skinny blonde. Would see me waiting for another drink and not come up to help for a good 10 minutes. FOR A BEER ON TAP. Unacceptable. I've been to other all-inclusives and the food and drinks and usually flowing all the time and readily availble. Here, not so much. It was torture to try and get anything to eat or drink in a reasonable time frame.
I have to say, I don't think I will ever go to a Sandals ever again. I am quite disappointed, and honestly feel that my honeymoon was ruined. If you're looking for an amazing, relaxing, care-free time, this is not the place to be. If you're looking to eat and drink to your hearts content, then look elsewhere. We have had better experiences in Mexico, of all places, where you can't even drink the water or brush your teeth from the sink!

Room Tip: Get a concierge suite. Apparently you don't get any "normal" accomodations unless you...
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  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
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    • Service
3  Thank Natasha H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa

Address: Dickenson Bay, St. John's, Antigua
Phone Number:
Location: Caribbean > Antigua and Barbuda > Antigua > Saint John Parish > St. John's
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#2 Top resorts Hotel in St. John's
#3 On the Beach Hotel in St. John's
#3 Luxury Hotel in St. John's
#4 Romantic Hotel in St. John's
#5 Business Hotel in St. John's
Price Range: $578 - $1,410 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa 5*
Number of rooms: 373
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
•A European Hotel in the Six-Star, all-suite Mediterranean Village •Exotic Rondoval with private plunge pool and butler service •1,400 square foot Mediterranean villa with private plunge pool and butler service•Houses the East Caribbean's largest pool (1 of 6) •Offers 9 dining options and 8 bars including an English pub •Voted "World's Most Romantic Resort" 14 years in a row ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Sandals Grande Antigua Resort And Spa
Sandals Grande Antigua Hotel St. John`s
Sandals Antigua
Hotel Sandals Grande Antigua
Sandals Grand Antigua
Antigua Sandals
Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa Saint John Parish

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